Drones to Prevent ‘Conflict Diamond’ Operations

Conakry: One of the more interesting uses of drones is a partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and US Geological Survey (USGS). Since June 2014, they have helped support the Kimberley Process (KP) by using camera-equipped drones to survey the mines, create 3D models of the operations, and keep track of small scale diamond mining sites in Western Guinea.

Pete Chico, a member of USGS who was deployed to Guinea, writes, “[these mines are] often remote and spread over vast territories […] the diamonds found are frequently sold into informal networks, [making it] very difficult to track production — a key requirement of the KP.”

Government regulations have attempted to bring together the smaller mining operations by making the workers register and creating a more streamlined workflow from mining to sale, but without the help of accurate imagery, it is hard to keep an eye on the operations. Chico says that using drones as a means of monitoring “helps to identify where mining is taking place, the extent of activities, the amount of production, and how the activity and production change over time”, but the method is not without its limitations.